Pablo Picasso
Spanish, 1881 - 1973
Lady with a Fan, 1905
Gift of the W. Averell Harriman Foundation in memory of Marie N. Harriman © 1997 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

You can click on differnet sections of the painting to learn more about this work. Give it a try.

Picasso created this enigmatic portrait in 1905, at about the same time he was working on his portrait of Gertrude Stein, his great friend and patron. She thought the painting was a kind of lucky charm for her, and bought it from the artist.

Stein owned the painting until 1929, when she thought about selling it to finance the publication of some of her own writings. She called together a "council" of people -- including Picasso -- to help her make this decision. Picasso told her that the painting had hung on her walls long enough and to go ahead and sell it. It was eventually purchased by W. Averell Harriman, who many years later donated it to the National Gallery of Art much later in his life.

According to an inscription on one of the studies Picasso did while preparing to paint this work, a young girl from Montmartre (the area in Paris where Picasso lived) was the model for this piece. However, in the painting, the young girl seems to have been transformed into a solemn and serene kind of priestess, stretching her arms unnaturally as if she were conducting some kind of secret rite. Some also see her as an actress or a heroine involved in a conversation with someone just outside the picture. What do you think?

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